The St. Clair boys basketball team hosted Algonac in its home opener last night, giving a large, excited crowd something to cheer about with a 72-30 victory.
“Tonight was a chance to get guys some action and it was good to see,” head coach Matt Distelrath said. “I thought we shared the ball well, and the energy was good in the building which makes it fun to play the game.”
Coming off of a 56-39 defeat against Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse Wednesday, Distelrath said last night was a good opportunity for his young team to correct some of its early-season mistakes, mainly with quicker, more efficient ball movement.
“It was nice to get a lot of guys in. We’re a very inexperienced team. We have three guys who played varsity minutes last year and honestly, only Hunter [Richardson] played a lot of minutes,” Distelrath said. “They definitely took it to heart and really moved the ball.”
At 6-foot-5, Richardson, a senior, managed 11 points and 11 rebounds on the night, playing a key role in the Saints’ high-speed offense.
“I feel like I defend the rim decently well, and when the team starts getting me the ball inside, it opens up shots for them and it just makes the offense flow a lot more,” Richardson said. “It’s cool. I can be down low and they can get me the ball and I can score. And then when they start doubling me, I can kick it out and get the assist and just watch the ball go in the hoop.”
And on the receiving end of Richardson’s work in the paint were senior and freshman guards Braylon Essian and Braylon Frantz. Essian shot four triples for 12 points on the night while Frantz added 17 – including a pair of free throws after a technical.
“I was just thinking, I’ve got to hit these,” Frantz said. “I was pumped up the whole game, so I was feeling it.”
He may only be a freshman, but Frantz is quickly becoming a leader within the program, which is exactly why he was called upon after the foul.
“[Frantz] is a gym rat. He’s always in the gym so the guys respect him,” Distelrath said. “A lot of times you wonder about a freshman coming in, but the fact that he puts the work in, the guys respect that and trust him, and he’s done a really nice job.”
And despite last night’s lopsided score, Algonac first-year head coach Marcus Sadlowski said he has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the season.
This was the Muskrats’ season opener, and he said it was no “cupcake” to come into an electric atmosphere and play against a bigger, more experienced St. Clair team. But that was exactly the challenge he wanted.
“When I took over, this was one of those jobs that I wanted…I watched Algonac for the last seven, eight years when they’d just give up. I thought our kids played tough tonight,” he said. “I thought they were outmanned at times, St. Clair was a bigger team than us, and we made a lot of dumb mistakes that we will correct, but I expect us by halfway through the season to start winning games that maybe we didn’t expect to win.”
Leading the way for the Rats was senior Caleb Thomas with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Junior Trevor Shaffer added five. Sadlowski said he thinks perimeter shooting will be a strength this season, and seven triples against a pesky Saints defense would prove it.
“I thought Thomas played well tonight, and I thought [sophomore] Bryce Simpson played excellent…he played really tough defense, did everything we asked, and he even hit a 3-pointer to end the game,” Sadlowski said. “He’s a kid that didn’t have a lot of confidence going into this year, but when I’d have shootarounds, he’d be there at six in the moring with me. He’s going to get better and we’re going to get better.”
St. Clair improves to 1-1 on the season and will play in a pair of home games next week, starting Tuesday against New Haven and Friday against Anchor Bay. Algonac will travel to Memphis Wednesday night before starting conference play at home against Richmond on Thursday.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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